Man, it’s good to be Collin Klein these days (I assume it’s good to be Collin Klein most days, but these should be exceptionally fruitful times). The former Wildcat QB/freak of nature, turned future Wildcat recruiter has been gifted an incredible hand to play on the recruiting trail by Chris Klieman.
The aces up Klein’s sleeve come from Klieman’s incredible run of quarterbacks at North Dakota State. Sure, you might get lucky and hit on a Carson Wentz once every 20 years, but hitting on Wentz, Easton Stick, and Trey Lance in succession goes beyond luck.
To quote Ian Flemming, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action,” (look there are versions of this quote that fit the situation better, but when you can quote the creator of James Bond, you do it).
For those of you unfamiliar with the work of Mr. Lance, allow me to introduce you to one of the hottest QBs in college football. Trey Lance was a 3* (81) dual-threat quarterback out of Marshall, Minnesota in the 2018 recruiting class when he signed with Coach Klieman and the North Dakota State Bison.
Heading into his RS Sophomore year, he’s ranked 5th overall on Todd McShay’s preseason draft board. Last season, his first as a starting QB for North Dakota State, he led the Bison to a perfect 16-0 record and another FCS Championship. Almost more impressive was his stat line. In 2019 Lance threw for 2,786 yards, completed 67% of his passes, put the ball in the end zone 28 times and threw zero interceptions. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a stat line like that before from a first year starting quarterback, but it gets better. Lance also ran for 1,100 yards, averaged 6.5 yards a carry, and finished up a run in the end zone 14 times.
Wondering what this has to do with Kansas State recruiting at quarterback?
Pretty much everything.
First and foremost, Klieman (or the people he surrounds himself with) have an incredible eye for talent. You don’t see a run of quarterbacks like this at most blue-blood D1 schools, much less an FCS school in North Dakota. It’s not like Klieman was recruiting off the top of the menu, but he found (or helped find) and coached three NFL caliber quarterbacks.
In addition to that, good quarterbacks want to play for coaches that develop other good quarterbacks. Coach Klieman’s streak of exceptional quarterbacks at North Dakota State will make it significantly easier to bring exceptional quarterbacks to Manhattan, Kansas. Throw in a young, dynamic, quarterback coach with the reputation of Collin Klein, and I think the Wildcats are perfectly positioned to take a big step forward over the next few seasons at quarterback. That’s not to discount what they already have, because Skylar Thompson is a solid quarterback right now. I expect him to be even better in 2020 with a full season of starting in the offense under his belt and a young wide receiver group at his disposal that grew up quickly last season. Skylar could be one of the breakout players in the Big 12 next season.
My prediction of what’s to come at the quarterback position in Manhattan...well, you’ve already got a sneak preview.
Will Howard and Jake Rubley are two quality recruits, but don’t sleep on Jaren Lewis either. I think all three will make a great quarterback competition (with Nick Ast in the mix as well) once Skylar exhausts his eligibility. I expect recruiting at the quarterback position to be a keystone for the Klieman era at Kansas State. If you’ve got a quarterback, recruiting across the board becomes much easier.
Quarterbacks want to play for a coach with a history of successful quarterbacks.
Wide receivers and tight ends want to know they’ve got a solid QB throwing them the ball.
Running backs want to know they won’t face 8 and 9 man boxes their entire career.
Offensive linemen want to know they’re blocking for a guy that can cash in on their hard work.
I’ve been on the podcast circuit recently, and every time K-State and Coach Klieman are mentioned, I let them know, to steal a line from Frank Sinatra (and Dabo), the best is yet to come in Manhattan.
Y’all stay safe out there.